Christ is the Vine by Rev. Paul Grankauskas
Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"
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John wrote to show that Christ was
the Messiah, the Divine Son of God.
Jesus said to his disciples: "I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower. He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and every one that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit. You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you. Remain in me, as I remain you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me will be thrown out like a branch and wither; people will gather them and throw them into a fire and they will be burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you. By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples."
Anyone familiar with gardening is familiar with the fate of dead leaves on plants; they are pruned away and tossed out. Leaves which fall from trees and plants, cut off from their source of life, wither and die upon the ground.
It is not difficult for us to appreciate the significance and meaning of Jesus' words in the Gospel: "I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower. He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and every one that does, he prunes so that it bears more fruit." He goes on to say that, "I am the vine, you are the branches."
We, members of the Church, Christ's mystical body, would do well to remember that we are the branches. We draw our life from Christ, the true vine. He alone is our salvation. We have the hope of everlasting life - we believe in the resurrection of the body and the life of the world to come - only because of Him. We are partakers of his divine nature because this is the gift He communicates to us, shares with us, through the Church's sacramental life.
A Catholic couple that marries outside the Church denies itself the grace of the sacrament of marriage. This grace enables them to live out the true self-giving, sacrificial love that is necessary in married life. A husband and wife need that divine assistance if they are to be patient and forgiving with one another day in and day out, if they are to remain faithfully committed to one another. This grace is necessary for transforming a marriage into a living image of Christ's sacrificial love for his bride, the Church, made manifest on the cross: "Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends" (Jn 15:13)
One who claims he need not go to Mass on Sunday because he can pray to God in other ways denies himself the sublime moment of receiving the Eucharist, the sacrament of Christ's Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity. Here we have Jesus' words to get a sense of just what we miss: "He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. . . . He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me and I in him" (Jn 6:54, 56).
The branch that bears fruit is the soul that draws its life from and remains united with Christ in the sacramental life of the Church. The sign that a soul is bearing much fruit and that Christ truly lives in a soul is to see in that soul the characteristics of Christ. The Christ-like soul is one which is humble, obedient to the will of God, compassionate and totally dependent upon God. Such a thing is impossible if Christ does not dwell in the soul, and Christ cannot dwell in the soul if we deny ourselves the grace of the sacraments: "Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing."
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